[EDITORIALS]Put brains before gunsThirteen of Korea’s defense ministers met yesterday with the incumbent Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung and urged him to stop negotiations with the United States for transferring wartime control over Korean troops to the Korean government.
They had two reasons: First, our intelligence-gathering facilites, which are essential for wartime military command, are lacking. Second, given the recent missile tests by North Korea and the possibility of imminent sanctions against the North, this simply is not the right time to discuss matters of control over our own military in war. This is a timely recommendation, made in a time of uncertain security.
The Roh administration has made it seem as though our military will become completely independent as long as the wartime command responsibilities are returned. Concern from high-ranking U.S. military officers and Korean government officials that the Korean armed forces must first develop their military capabilities were simply ignored. Kim Hee-sang, the first Blue House senior secretary of national security, said in 2003 that the Defense Ministry was skeptical about obtaining wartime control. Yet the current government has been calling for acquiring the control without specific plans. It has been a hasty move on the part of the government, which seems overly enamored with ideas of “independence.”
As far as wartime military command is concerned, the timing of the acquisition is not the most important thing. The key is to prepare for what will follow should control be returned. Reconnaissance satellites, an early warning system and an anti-air attack system should be firmly in place before we obtain control. Yet those requirements are far off. An attempt to introduce next-generation guided weapons was foiled due to budget cuts, as was the early warning system. Still, the defense minister continues to claim that all of these will be secured within the next five years, a statement that rings rather hollow at this point.
A former defense minister, now a representative from the ruling Uri Party, said in the National Assembly that our national security is in a perilous state, and pointed out that reckless and imprudent attempts to regain wartime control have been the biggest cause of the situation. We urge Mr. Yoon to stop driving our national security further into chaos for the sake of trying to please the Blue House. While the ministerial post is fleeting, the nation itself is permanent. Mistakes in national security can be hard to redeem.